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Vintage is a tremendous time of year. Lots of incredible people putting in plenty of hard work in all kinds of conditions. 2017 is shaping up to be something special, with the fruit looking great across the board. We’re very excited to see what Russell, Andrew, Harry and our winemaking teams can achieve with this year’s harvest.
Solid above average rainfall in winter helped to produce good soil moisture and ample base nutrients for the vines to thrive naturally. Spring and summer were cooler than normal with only six days during this period over 40 degrees compared to the average of 15 days. Small patches of rain occurred during the ripening and harvesting season which was beneficial in reducing any disease or mould to the grapes. Fruit on the vines were plentiful but took much longer to ripen than usual with the harvest date being delayed by two weeks behind the normal timings. The last fruit in the region harvested on April 23rd.
Overall, the 2017 vintage in the Riverina was average to good with whites producing the stand out varieties. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are looking good with fresh fruit style wines showing vibrancy, freshness and crisp, natural acidity. Reds are average with the earlier varieties faring the best – Shiraz and Merlot are looking sound with good colour and clean varietal fruit, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon battled to get ripe with some parcels showing a few herbal parcels but the majority showing ripe Cabernet flavours. Rose wines are excellent with Sangiovese and Pinot Noir looking very fresh and textured. Fortified wines are solid with tawny bases probably the pick of the bunch.
Winter rains were one of the highest on record with 1060mm falling from May to April. During spring, rainfall was moderate with the ripening period of February and March staying relatively dry. These weather patterns resulted in a full profile and a minimal need for irrigation during the growing season.
Weather during the harvest period was mild to warm resulting in a delayed vintage season, with vintage starting a little later than the average of the last 8-10 years. This theme was carried across a number of other regions in South Eastern Australia as growers waited for fruit to reach optimum ripeness before harvest.
Yields during vintage were moderate with the grapes reaching optimum ripeness at a steady pace allowing great flavours to develop with the natural acidity being retained. Flavours and phenolic maturity was slightly ahead of sugar ripeness. A standout for this vintage was Chardonnay with vibrancy and freshness while Pinot Noir is showing great elegance and perfume. All varieties performed exceptionally well this season as the cooler ripening period really suited the fruit growing in the Tumbarumba region. Overall quality of fruit being produced from the Tumbarumba region is excellent
Winter rains were fantastic, with June and September experiencing the highest rainfalls on record. This welcome start to the season set the vines up with lush canopies, but demanded diligent and attentive work by growers and viticulturists to ensure growth was kept in check and a good balance of light and shade was able to reach the fruit.
January and February were warm and dry with temperatures slightly above long-term averages, allowing the vines to transition well from green growth into ripening of fruit. There was a welcome absence of any sustained heat waves, with cool nights helping to keep flavours fresh and bright. Vintage started with the harvest of Chardonnay on the evening of the 28th of Feb, gradually moving into Pinot Noir for sparkling before the first reds were picked with the Shiraz from Rogers’ block 2 coming off on the 16th of March. Merlot and Cabernet were harvested from early April onwards. All varieties were harvested closer to the long-term average harvest dates, 2-3 weeks later than recent, warmer years. This allowed the winemaking and viticultural teams to harvest precisely at optimal ripeness, without the pressure of heat-wave conditions.
Whites are showing delicacy and finesse, while even at this early stage, Shiraz and Cabernet are looking fantastic. Shiraz is showing a great diversity of styles from more perfumed styles in the cooler sites towards Boorowa, through to medium- and fuller-bodied styles from the McWilliam’s Barwang vineyard situated south of the township of Young. All wines are showing a vibrancy and freshness that appears to be a hallmark of the vintage. Cabernet recorded the lowest yields of all varieties, and the best wines are showing this in their depth and concentration while still expressing true Cabernet varietal characteristics.
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Since 1877, when founder Samuel McWilliam first planted vines on the banks of the Murray River in New South Wales, the McWilliam family have produced six consecutive generations of exceptional winemakers.
As custodians of the New South Wales wine industry, McWilliam’s has carefully selected a rich portfolio of premium vineyards located in the cool climate regions of Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Canberra and the expansive plains of the Riverina. Our wines showcase regional specific characters, premium quality, impressive depth and full flavour expression.